I flew into Chania, a town full of Byzantine and Venetian history timelessly reflected in the stunning architecture. It is worth spending a couple of days exploring the town which provides a great contrast to our location in Milia.
The mountainous landscape was at eye-line as the plane descended to land. This undulating terrain is what Crete is made of; rolling hills, valleys and gorges that lead to the sea the colour of blues and sapphires.
There are 16 cabins in Milia and each of them originally housed a family where they would cook, eat, wash and sleep all in the same room. The week-long retreat gave me the time to really connect to the place. There is a true magic in Milia and the choice of lifestyle that was maintained here was clearly motivated by the landscape. The impact of the lush greenery was instantaneous as the car turned up winding roads to reach our destination. As we climbed steep dirt tracks, a blanket of green foliage created shade from the hot midday sun and revealed acres of luscious farmland. Milia is renowned for its produce and quality of food. At twilight we would sit for diner on the terrace of Milia's traditional taverna, until the stars appeared casting a beautiful light over the valley. Everything we ate that week was either grown on Milia's grounds or procured from their neighbours. The tomatoes we ate looked different to those from the good ones I usually buy in a British supermarket - they were a deeper colour of red, they were bigger, they smelt fresh from the vine and the taste was new, almost unrecognisable.
Milia is run by an indefatigable team of local Cretans, led by Tassos. After years working in advertising in Athens, he and his wife took over running Milia, a project that his father in law began in 1985. He has an intimate knowledge of the local area and gushes with enthusiasm for local plants and culture, which he introduced to us by hosting a traditional night with music from two burley men with delicate string instruments and soprano voices. Alongside Tassos' love for a pleasant dinner, good company and music he also joined in with our boxing sessions. I recall him saying that when the Wildfitness team arrive his trainers make their annual appearance and the team work him so hard that he is in good stead until the next time they set foot there.
When I arrived the coaches had already been in Crete for a week and were calm, collected and acclimatised. My favourite sessions were spent below Milia where we would walk along higgledy piggledy paths just after sunrise, getting our bodies moving again and our blood flowing before playing games. I say games, I felt like we were training to be silent ninjas. We were exploring the reactive part of the mind and so we were focused on catching sticks that our partners dropped, with our eyes closed. Our minds were engaged and focused, something usually associated with a pen, paper or a laptop. This was stimulating without external pressure and it was full of enjoyment. My eyes were closed, I had my arm reaching out, waiting for the sound of my partner's voice to tell me the stick had been dropped. Surprisingly I had managed to catch the stick, even more surprising was the fact I was smiling the whole time.
Between intense sessions and delicious food there was plenty of time in which I showered with abandon, sunbathed and found the time to read two books. Rest is a big part of how we spent our time - allowing our bodies to focus on relaxation, tending to sore muscles and letting our digestive systems have time to adjust.
On returning home it was not until a couple of weeks later that, I finally had a chance to look at the photos I had taken during the course. With a little more perspective I realised what I had achieved in terms of pushing myself but also in creating bonds with a disparate group of people - the other clients, the coaches and the team at Milia. We had all, through this shared experience, become part of the tribe.
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We write occasional pieces about our adventures, about our findings related to the Wildfitness approach, about food and we also invite others to contribute.